NICOSIA (AFP) – The Cyprus government yesterday approved several deals to be signed with Egypt on the exploration and exploitation of oil and natural gas deposits thought to lie under the sea between the two countries. The agreements are expected to be signed during President Tassos Papadopoulos’s five-day visit, which started yesterday, to Cairo where he will hold talks with Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak. On the agenda are five cooperation agreements, including gas and oil prospecting. After the Cabinet meeting, presidential undersecretary Christodoulos Pashardes said the agreements allowed for joint exploitation of hydrocarbon deposits in the sea area lying between the countries’ exclusive economic zones. He said Egypt and Cyprus would also seek to cooperate in electricity production and tapping renewable energy sources. «This is exceptionally big for Cyprus and the gains we expect to receive from these agreements will benefit the entire Cypriot people,» Pashardes told reporters. «I know the work will begin very soon, possibly within the next year,» he added without elaborating. Although the extent of gas and oil reserves beneath the Mediterranean off Cyprus is unknown, in the past Nicosia estimated there could be up to 8 billion barrels off the island’s shores. Cyprus has sought similar oil exploration deals with fellow neighbors Lebanon, Syria and Israel.